Enya's Day Without Rain
J.D. Considine, Sun Music Critic
The Baltimore Sun (USA) 14 November 2000
lush, warm and arresting
Part of what makes Ireland so brilliantly green is that it gets a healthy amount of rain.
A simple observation, perhaps, but one that lies at the heart of Enya's quietly observant new album, "A Day Without Rain" (arriving in stores today). Her first new effort since 1995's "The Memory of Trees," it carries on in the same lush, contemplative vein of her previous albums. Yet where the songs on those albums often seemed pretty but unconnected, "A Day Without Rain" seems more of a piece, as if Enya had sought to compose a suite instead of a pop album.
To her credit, the album's sense of unity has less to do with the words (written by longtime collaborator Roma Ryan) than with the way the album's melodies flow from one to the next. Even though there's nothing as strictly formal as theme-and-variations at work here, it's clear that the sequencing has more to do with musical logic than with mere articulation of mood.
Take, for instance, the relationship between "Wild Child" and "Only Time." Not only do both songs work from a similar sonic palette, with synths sounding like pizzicato strings beneath the layered vocals, but the themes also follow a similar pattern of ebb and flow, rising and resolving in matching symmetric phrases.
Yet as similar as the songs are, there are significant differences.
"Wild Child" has a waltz-time tune, and that hint of the dance lends a sprightly animation to the melody.
By contrast, "Only Time" ticks along in slow but steady four-beat bars, a meter that makes the song seem gentler and more considered than its predecessor. Likewise, where the plinking synths in "Wild Child" suggest the movement of ballerinas, the slow arpeggios they outline in "Only Time" evoke the steady patter of rain - even if the basic musical patterns stay the same.
That Enya should be thinking orchestrally shouldn't seem too surprising, given the conservatory training of her youth. But there are a few songs in this album in which the instrumental conception is so symphonic it's surprising she was content to stick to synths.
For instance, "Tempus Vernum" sounds at times as if she's going for the grandeur of Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana," but between the clock-like arpeggios and the electronic coolness of the synths, she ends up with just a romanticized gloss on Philip Glass.
That's a pity, because once "Tempus Vernum" dissolves into the prayerful calm of the Gaelic-language "Deora Ar Mo Chroi," Enya is on much firmer footing compositionally. Fortunately, there are moments when Enya's ambition and inspiration are on the same level.
"One By One" is a perfect example. Blessed with a gently thrumming pulse and a slowly swelling arrangement, it's like a warm bath, soothing while commanding the listener's complete attention.
As with 1989's "Orinoco Flow" before it, "One by One" conveys all the qualities of a pop hit without succumbing to the typical transience of a Top-40 favorite.
And there's nothing drought-like about that.
Note: Transcribed by Troman.